The proverbial handwriting was on the airport wall. The night of my
arrival in Nairobi Kenyatta Airport was (or could have been) a signal to
my 15 hour sleep deprived brain that the mundane was going to be in
stiff competition with the mission. The mission – start up my one-year
pilot project on the teaching of thoughtful reading and writing in an
under- sourced rural community
And so it has been. Retrieving my two large and one medium sized
suitcases banded in bright colors for easy identification, was the first
flag. Hopeful watching of the “It’s a Small World After All” ride of
packaged humanity was futile. Unfortunately, that was not known to me
until 3:30 AM, 3 hours after our 3 hour late arrival.
After a few hours sleep at our old friend, The Sarova Stanely Hotel
in the heart of Nairobi’s business district, we were in the lobby giving
elated, 2 cheek air kisses to Chief Joseph, wife Cecilia and in short
time, Joseph Nderitu, the young man Howard and I are sponsoring for a
diploma in Hotel Management and Hospitality from a Nairobi college.
Not long after we packed ourselves into the hired car Chief Joseph
came in, we were on our way to his village in Maasailand. (Young Joseph
would join us on the following Wed.) On the the trip from urban Nairobi
to the rural you pass intermittent roadside stretches of furniture and
other wares for sale. About 20 minutes into our trip, Imperative
Kswahili instructions were followed by an abrupt pull over. Chief
Joseph, dressed for NY creds but for the red plaid wrap draped over his
shoulder, left the van and returned some minutes later bearing a
hospitality gift for his visitors – a brand new shellacked, wooden
At first he wedged the gleaming
wooden box with the flip top between Cecilia and the baggage in the rear
of the van but the road was bumpy (didn’t know how bumpy till we left
the paved part of thetrip) so after the third time I nagged about the
potential injuries to Cecilia, Chief Joseph repositioned the piece
between his own knees where it stayed for the hour or so it took to
reach our new home away from home.
The Guest House met our eyes with a combination of relief and wonder.
During the last 40 minutes of our trip from Nairobi, the road turned
downright nasty. Joseph explained that the government started making a
road into the interior of Maasailand but then decided they had done
enough. They did return to remove some of the major rocks but what
remained can only be good news for Good Year and Toyota. Tires and
suspension parts have about a 6 month life span on that terrain. The
locals traveled either by foot or motor scooter. When it rains, and when
it rains it dumps water, the gullies we passed fill to over flowing and
the roads are impassible.
So much for the relief we (our
backs particularly) felt when we arrived. You can imagine the wonder of
seeing a large western structure standing out on the otherwise vast,
flat, parched land. Anything else of a vertical nature would be cows,
Maasai people walking, small tin-roofed dwellings and the ubiquitous
Acacia trees. (Having never seen one really up close and perhaps not in
the dry season when they are without any folliage, I never knew that
they all thorns.) I am sure we were all thinking the same thing as we
spotted a large house off in the distance, OK this will be a piece of
We soldiered on for 2 weeks at the guest house. Intermittent solar
light, no running water, no success with the use of thumb drive modems
for WiFi connections, and really tight sleeping space (Michelle and I
shared a bunk bed and a closet- well part of a closet) required
full-time logistics planning and management.
|The curtained house entrance|
|Chi (tea with milk and some spice) is served to the family and guests in the living room|
I developed a deep understanding for the
part our surroundings play in our sense of groundedness and well-being.
When nothing can be taken for granted – not brushing your teeth and
washing your face, not flushing the toilet (we did have a toilet in the
house but flushing required asking a lovely young woman named Christine
to lug a very large bucket of water from the cistern outside) and not
having any food item that requires refrigeration.
Once the opening Saturday meeting and lunch was done and the week of
workshops for the teachers was over, Michelle, Joe and I realized the
impossibility of getting any of the communications work done while
living at the Guest House. In order to get connected we had to get to
Ngong where there are internet cafes. The car trip was arduous and the
cost, round trip – $60. Nobody was cutting us any breaks.
|Entrance to living room||
A dear woman who I met in Nairobi in 2010, owns a car service
business. I called Maggy and told her we needed to find lodging. Despite
all good intentions, our next move was something out of “The Griswalds
Family Vacation” minus the vacation and the humor. This Guest House also
looked good enough from the outside, we arrived baggage in tow feeling
kind of desperate and dirty. We were envisioning the hot shower, the
flushing toilet, comfortable beds, refrigeration, a mirror, a closet or a
hook perhaps… and internet.
Well we did get internet. At the end of night 2 Michelle was checking
Airbnb and came up with a great find. So now I am in a very reasonable
rental house in Karen. (Many nice houses behind gates in Karen.) Two
shopping malls within 5 to 10 minutes. House help on the premises. And I
for one, have no illusions about the distinction between wanting to
share what I know with people who want to know it with going Peace
Corps. I signed on for the former.
|Kitchen and Joe||
|Samson’s intrepid Toyota|